First Person

Marriott Center Magic 

Readers share memories made in BYU’s biggest building.

Too Many Stairs 

By Alison Drake Olsen (BGS ’18), Mesa, AZ 

A dad in plaid and a grad in cap and gown gives a thumbs-up from the far seats of the Marriott Center during graduation.
Illustration by Travis Foster

My love for the Marriott Center runs deep: devotionals, Education Week, concerts, and especially basketball games. My dad, a longtime loyal BYU fan, has held basketball season tickets since 1952. Games were played in the Smith Fieldhouse back then. 

When the Marriott Center was built, he bought season tickets for the whole family. My parents’ tickets were 19 rows up behind the visitor basket. My two sisters and I had tickets in the nosebleed section on the east side. We loved BYU basketball—especially Krešimir Ćosić (’73). That first year BYU won the Cougar Classic in double overtime. 

We spent several nights a month during basketball season following the same routine. We’d leave Salt Lake City, listening to the pregame show with sportscaster Paul James. Then we’d watch the game, cheering our hearts out for BYU. Finally we’d rush to the parking lot to make the drive back to Salt Lake City, listening to the postgame show and coaches’ interviews. 

Fast forward to April 2018: I was finally graduating from BYU at age 59. My dad, at age 87, didn’t think he was up to coming to my graduation—too many stairs, he said. When I laughingly reminded him that they were the same stairs he had climbed for every basketball game for 46 years, including that season, he decided he could make it after all. 

In the Right Place

By David L. Gomillion (BS ’05), College Station, TX

When I first arrived at BYU, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake. Everything was so different from my home state, Texas. I prayed about it for a couple of weeks, trying to decide whether to stick it out or transfer to a different university. My answer came when I felt prompted to attend a devotional live at the Marriott Center instead of watching it in my usual spot in the James E. Talmage Building. 

As I sat in a sea of students in hard plastic chairs, we sang, “The Lord Is My Light.” The Spirit bore witness to me that the students around me really were seeking to follow God, and since I was also trying to follow His plan for me, I was in the right place. I learned that BYU isn’t about buildings, classes, or professors (though all of those help). It’s about being a disciple, among other disciples, preparing for a lifetime of service. For this reason, the Marriott Center will always be a sacred place to me.

Unforgettable Decision

By Kodie Stott Davis (BS ’02), Meridian, ID

During Christmastime my junior year, I told my boyfriend I would be starting my mission papers after the break. Panicked, he suggested I should stay home and marry him. I really loved him, but I really wanted to serve a mission too. I felt as though I wasn’t getting a clear answer to my prayers. The days dragged into weeks, and I still hadn’t made a decision. 

At the start of winter semester, I dragged that nervous wreck of a boy to the Marriott Center to hear the speaker at the weekly devotional. As I listened I suddenly received powerful revelation that I should get married rather than serve a mission. With tear-filled eyes, I turned my head to tell my soon-to-be fiancé that I would marry him after all—only to see him sound asleep in the chair next to me! I had to wake him up to tell him I would marry him!

From our seats at the Homecoming Spectacular last fall, my husband showed our children where we’d been sitting when I’d agreed to marry him 20 years ago. I couldn’t believe he’d remembered where we’d been sitting, but he said, “You don’t forget an experience like that!”

Where’s the Baby?

By Roy V. Voeks (BA ’94), Lehi, UT

A policeman talks on his radio near a couple and their baby, spilled popcorn at their feet.
Illustration by Travis Foster

When I was a new student at BYU, my wife and I attended a basketball game at the Marriott Center. We took our 18-month-old baby boy with us, sitting in our usual cheap seats on the very top row. At halftime we went down to get refreshments.

As we were standing in line, my wife asked me, “Where is the baby?” 

Panic set in as I asked her the same thing. We found a policeman who announced that no one could leave the building with a baby. Never has five minutes seemed so long as we searched for our little guy.

Suddenly, a call came over the police radio that our baby had been found. Panic turned to relief, then joy. He had gone back to where we always sat and climbed behind the seats to enjoy some popcorn he had found on the floor.

Since then, we have had five more kids—and never lost one. That baby is now 36 and the father of four daughters. He still enjoys going to the Marriott Center for a game and popcorn.

Sporting and Spiritual

By Elise Curtis Newman (BS ’17), Las Vegas

As a freshman at BYU, I attended my first basketball game in the Marriott Center. We took our seats as the fans and band music grew louder. As Jimmer sank one three-point shot after another, I was blown away not only by his talent but by the sheer volume of the audience in response. It rattled the whole building and was quite thrilling. That night—and ultimately that year—was one of the best of my life.

During my time at the MTC, I attended my first missionary devotional in the Marriott Center. I felt different walking in with a name tag and a companion instead of face paint and a roommate. The low hum of chatter and prelude music was immediately suffused with silence as we took our seats. As Elder Richard G. Scott’s words carried the Spirit throughout the room, I was blown away not only by his mantle, but by the reverent silence of the audience in response. It permeated the whole building and was quite thrilling. That day—and ultimately those 18 months of my mission—will forever be the most sacred of my life.

That same space once filled with fans screaming so loud you could barely hear your thoughts was filled with missionaries so reverent you could hear a pin drop. The versatility of the Marriott Center is what makes it so meaningful and memorable—not only to me but to all of us.


Get Lost

When you’re new in town, with your nose in a textbook and a thousand thoughts in your head, it’s easy to wander. Maybe one day you ended up at Brick Oven on your way home to Wyview. On the quads or a study abroad, on Provo streets or a road trip, did you ever look around and wonder “How the heck did I get here?” Send your story of getting lost on or off campus during your BYU years. Deadline: June 6.

Y Magazine pays $50 for stories published in First Person. Send anecdotes of up to 300 words to firstperson@byu.edu. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, appropriateness, and clarity.

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